Posts Tagged ‘lost river cave’

What Are Those Buildings?


What was this?

Clinging to the edge of the limestone bluff stands a building that looks to be well over a century old. The wooden planks of its front wall stand crooked and slanted as over time they have grown tired and decided to lean on one another for a little rest. The tin roof is peeling and covered with Virginia Creeper that turns a bright red every fall season. For years, as I’ve walked past this old building I have wondered how long it has been standing there, and how many memories are contained within its three remaining walls. Beneath the floor, visible through the holes in the wood, is an aged metal water tank sitting conveniently next to a wet-weather spring. At the bottom of the cliff just above the river is an equally ancient structure not much larger than a doghouse that served as a pump house. At times of year when the spring wasn’t running, water could be pumped up to the storage tank above. Over the years working at Lost River Cave I have heard many questions about that building as well as numerous theories as to how that building may have been used.


The old water tank.

A common answer is that that building was the honeymoon suite. There was a tourist court operating at Lost River Cave during the 1930’s through the 1950’s featuring several cabins that visitors could rent and spend the night. This particular building is larger and constructed differently than the standard cabins were. It has multiple rooms, and was the only one with water. The idea of this being a “deluxe” version of the accommodations at Lost River Cave is a realistic idea, and it has been reported as such by visitors who have been here in the old days.

The second theory I have heard, and this one was speculation based on the structure of the building, is that this building might have been something along the lines of a general store for use by those staying at the tourist court. This idea was proposed by a guest on one of my tours that had a hobby involving old buildings and their uses. He said that the size and shape of the front window led him to believe that customers were once served from that window.

The story I heard thirteen years ago, is the one I personally like to rely on the most. It was the first year that we were open for the winter. That year winter was an incredibly slow season for Lost River Cave business. Over the winter, we averaged about six people over the weekends, and zero people throughout the week. I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to spend my time that season. Usually on Saturday, I would be the only person on staff. I would come in, get the cave and boats ready for any tours that might run, then head up and open the gift shop. As the Friday closer usually had plenty of free time too, the visitor center was always clean and ready to go when I showed up. I would double check that the gift shop was ready, get the cash register ready, and open up for business. Around 11:30 or 12:00 I would take a lunch break, putting a sign on the window letting people know when I would be back. Every once in a while, usually after lunch, someone would come in for a tour. This day, the people that came in were not interested in a tour of the cave, instead they were giving each other a tour of the house that had become our gift shop.

“This was Mom’s room, over there was the kitchen, my room was over here. . .”


The remaining tourist cabin.

I knew that I had a great resource on my hands, so I started asking them questions. It turned out, not only did they once live in the building, but their parents owned and operated Lost River Cave back in the old days. Among the other questions, I asked about that old run down building. She told me that when she was young, she worked at Lost River Walnut Company and that she sat in that very building husking walnuts.

Lost River Walnut Company would collect walnuts from the numerous black walnut trees that grew in the Lost River Cave Valley and would also buy walnuts brought in by locals. The walnuts had a number of uses. Not only are they a healthy nut to eat, but the husks have been used to produce dyes, inks, and stains. Iodine can be extracted from the hulls, and the shells, when pulverized, were used to stuff teddy bears and pillows.

So, with three stories, the question still remains, what exactly was that building used for. My best answer is that it could have very well been used as all of the above at different times. This would explain why visitors who had been here at different times in the past remember it for different purposes.

Only Two of These In Kentucky

Lost River Cave has one of only two Nature Explore Classrooms in the state of Kentucky. Come visit our Nature Explore Classroom and get those kids outside, off the couch, and out from in front of those screens.

Arbor Day Foundation says it better than I can, so:


On White Squirrels: No, Not Albino

The whispering started again. I was not surprised as I had seen this behavior dozens if not hundreds of times before. I knew that my talk on the geology of the blue hole at Lost River Cave was about to take a back seat. It usually starts with one person quietly and politely nudging someone they came with, then whispering while pointing behind me. Next it spreads, more nudging and pointing and before long the planned speech has been completely upstaged by Flake, one of our resident white squirrels. 


I’ve learned, and now when it starts I will say, without turning around, “If you look behind me, you will spot one of our white squirrels.” The first question is, “How did you know it was there?” and then the Frequently Asked Questions start rolling.

A popular site in Bowling Green, KY especially on the campus of Western Kentucky University, and here at Lost River Cave, are our white squirrels. When I was in college I heard many ridiculous explanations of their origins. Some said it was an experiment in the biology labs, others said the fault was with the chemistry or physics students doing bizarre experiments. My all time favorite put the blame for the white squirrels on a grand art project by students at the art department at the university. 

The real explanation? Nobody can give a perfect explanation of the white squirrels, but there are several factors that could come into play that help explain our population of white squirrels.

To head off the usual first question, none of the white squirrels I have seen at Lost River Cave are albinos, they all have dark eyes, not pink ones. Tree squirrels have a large amount of variability in coat colors, one of those variations is the white coat. Generally in nature the white coat is selected against because it is not good for concealment in a tree canopy. In settings where there are few natural predators, like the urban setting around Bowling Green, white squirrels have an extra chance of surviving. It has also been proposed that the white squirrels are able to blend in somewhat in areas with lots of white buildings and light colored concrete. Finally, white squirrels being less common around the world than squirrels of a different color, they often get “encouraged” to survive by people. In some towns, they have actually made an effort to remove squirrels that were not white in order to increase the white squirrel populations. That has not happened here, but I know from experience that Flake attracts the attention of guests who bribe him to pose for a picture with treats that his poor grey cousins don’t get.

Fortunately for those who are curious about the white squirrels, our most well known white squirrel at Lost River Cave likes to hang out in an area easily accessible by guests. As you head down the trail towards our big bridge, just as you start to walk under a tree canopy is Flake’s favorite hangout. These last few weeks in the afternoon I have seen him perched on a dead branch of an eastern red cedar there working on opening a walnut. 


For more information on white squirrel populations you can go here.

And if you’d like to come meet Flake, come visit us at Lost River Cave


Beyond your toes!

tour guide

Alex Morris

I was hired as a boat tour guide at Lost River Cave at the age of 19 in the spring of 2007.  My cousin recommended the cave as a casual job, great for people who like working outside. I’d been to Carlsbad Caverns as a child, as well as Mammoth Cave. From what I could remember, those caves were cool, so yeah, a boat tour guide sounded like a way better profession than flipping flippin’ burgers… continue reading on Alex Morris’s blog.

We have a winner!

Meet Aaron.
He won the Willow Tree Nativity Scene and plans to share it with his family.


You can win too!

You can win too! Drop by Wildflower Gifts through Sunday, December 23rd to registar for our next drawing. You may register one time each day! Our store hours are 9:30am-6:00pm, 7 days a week.

Don’t forget about our December Events!

Sip & Shop – Winter Tastings
Every Friday & Saturday from 11am-3pm

Kids’ Only Christmas Shopping
Saturday, December 8 from 11am-3pm

12 Days of Christmas Email Event
Sign up on our email list to discover deeply discounted holiday gift items! Starting December 12th. And be sure check out our Fa La La! Pinterest Board to killer secret deals.

Thanks Twin Lakes!

“We want to give a big, whole hearted thank you to the Twin Lakes Conservation Survey Task Force. Their volunteer service for the park last weekend helped to remove approximately 500 – 700 lbs of trash from the cave. Trash and debris are carried in by flooding and can remain in the cave system- until pulled out by volunteers.

Clean-ups such as this demonstrate the continued efforts, began 21 years ago, to protect and preserve Lost River Cave.  Give us a call to learn about ways you can join in our preservation efforts.”

Special thanks Jon Durall, Matt McClintock, Stacey Brewer, Steve Gentry, Preston & Sherrie Forsythe, Jack Ferguson and Paul Fleischmann.

Group from United Nations, China visits WKU as part of joint research project

A team representing the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Chinese government visited WKU this week for fieldwork and to discuss cooperative research under way to study atmospheric carbon dynamics.

Chris Groves explains details of groundwater monitoring equipment to Chinese scientists within WKU-owned Crumps Cave.

The group, which included scientists from UNESCO’s International Geoscience Program and the Chinese Geological Survey, visited sites at the WKU-owned Crumps Cave Educational Preserve and Lost River Cave. Research is under way there, with sister sites in China, to measure rates at which atmospheric CO2 is consumed by the dissolving of limestone in the world’s karst regions, which are areas like in south central Kentucky where caves, sinkholes and underground rivers are common. Rapidly changing atmospheric concentrations have been linked to increased rates of climate change, and so much work is underway to understand ways in which CO2 is being added to, or subtracted from, the atmosphere… Read more on the WKU News Blog!

The Tale of the Great ‘Coon Caper

ImageLost River Cave is known as a place where legends and history are born. Just last week another story will go down in our books forever.

Like many mornings at Lost River Cave the sun was shining down golden rays on our naturalist, Annie Holt, as she walked to our maintenance barn. From the corner of her eyes she spied a creature staggering out of sight. Upon further inspection she discovered a raccoon, wounded and missing his tail.

With a heart of gold, Annie did what any nature lover would do… her best to help this little guy by calling Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary to the rescue.

Like a Knight in Shining Armor, Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary sent a Rehabilitation Professional. He said unfortunately this guy was most likely a pet that had been released into the wild, probably on the park. People don’t realize when these critters are young that they are wild animals and should never be kept as pets. He said his tail was probably lost in a car accident because he didn’t understand how to survive in the wild.

Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary will reintroduce him into nature so that he can live productively.  They will place him in very large natural fenced-in area called the ‘Coon Castle (from caper to king as we like to say).  When he becomes acclimated to outdoors he will be released into nature where his real home is.

This little guy will go down in Lost River Cave history as the Great ‘Coon Caper because he stole our hearts!

In loving memory of Betsy the Snake

Betsy the Snake – 09/04/2012

Sad news today at Lost River Cave. Betsy the Snake has passed away. Ever since Betsy arrived, she’s been a special asset to the Lost River Cave team, showing visitors and staff alike that snakes don’t have to be scary. Betsy was a Rough Green Snake, and she showed everyone from boy scouts to nature newbies how cool snakes can be. Betsy will be remembered for her openness to people and her enjoyment of crickets. Betsy was a member of the Lost River Cave family for the past three years and we are so sorry to see her go. 

We will always think of you fondly, Betsy. Rest In Peace.

Employee Spotlight: Jessica Paull

Summer is the busiest season at Lost River Cave, and we can’t say thank you enough to the staff for their hard work. Lost River Cave recognizes wonderful individuals who keep us afloat, from tour guides to cashiers to maintenance.

Jessica Paull first began working as a cashier at Lost River Cave last July. She is currently attending Western Kentucky University studying Sociology. Jessica is originally from Summer Shade, Kentucky.

Q & A with Jessica

What originally brought you to Lost River Cave? I moved up here for school, and it was close to where I lived, so I applied. It seemed interesting, so I applied and got the job.

How is Lost River  Cave different from any other employer you’ve ever had? Oh a lot.  It’s actually a fun job, a place you don’t care to come to every day. You meet all sorts of nice happy people. At my other job it was the opposite.

Have your thoughts on caves or nature changed at all since you’ve been here?  Greatly. Caves seem a lot more fun and interesting to me now, and I spend a lot more time outside in nature as well.
Have you had any memorable visitors during your time working here? Oh my goodness, there have been a lot! There is always the visitors that come from different countries, and there is a language barrier which is difficult to overcome. There was a lady the other day that was very memorable, she came to Lost River Cave when she was a Western student and helped clean out the garbage in the 1990s.  She came back and was absolutely amazed at what had become of Lost River Cave since then. She was so excited.

What do you think the WORST corny cave joke is? “What is the difference between a column and a pillar in the cave?  A column is when a stalactite and a stalagmite grow together.  A pillar is what we sleep on here in Kentucky.”

Have you had much opportunity to travel, if so, where to? Or, where would you like to go?
I’ve been to Mexico, and I learned that some Mexicans think of KFC when they think of Kentucky. As soon as I’d say I was from Kentucky they’d say “Oh, KFC?”  I would love to go to Bora Bora (a Caribbean island). It is absolutely gorgeous and you can rent huts over water for a night, and I think those are amazing. I’m sure you can do that everywhere, but I want to go to Bora Bora.

For visitors reading this, do you have any recommendation for where to tour/eat explore in the Bowling Green area or all of Kentucky? Chaney’s Dairy Barn, I love it.  I also love Montana Grille right here in Bowling Green, and also Lost River Pizza Co. which is right up the road!

Any last words of wisdom for your visitors reading this? While you are here you can always enjoy the dog park if you have a dog. It’s right at the end of our greenways trail. Your dogs can play with other dogs in a fenced in area. In my case I have a six-month-old pug, so she gets all of her energy out before we go home.